Bet On The Road To Russia 2018 - Saturday's World Cup Qualifiers

Ivan Rakitic Playing For Croatia

Saturday, November 12, 2016 1:33 PM GMT

The race to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia resumes this weekend, with international fixtures taking place on five continents, and we have picked some of the most intriguing ones below, offering insight and picks.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/FqLg_wPf51c", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]Austria v Ireland

The Republic of Ireland come into this match on a two-game winning streak and unbeaten in four, but those wins came over lowly Georgia, Moldova and Oman, so it is wise not to read too much into them. More telling might be the draw they recently secured away at Serbia, a team of similar ability to Austria. It has been a poor start to the group for Austria, who also beat Georgia but lost 3-2 to Serbia and drew 2-2 with Wales. On paper these two look evenly matched. They are ranked 30th and 33rd in the FIFA rankings respectively, and they both qualified for Euro 2016 but failed to get out of their groups. Still, you would expect Austria, led by talented Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic, to win this one as they have home advantage and need to ignite their qualification campaign, and the odds of 2.05 look good. But a better option might be to go for both teams to score, which is also 2.05. Both teams have scored in all three of Austria’s qualification matches so far, while both teams scored in two of Ireland’s three matches. Both have dangerous attackers but poor defences.

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Croatia v Iceland

Croatia are a quality team, with Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric bossing the midfield. They are have taken seven points from a possible nine so far and are 2.00 favorites to win their qualification group, ahead of Ukraine and Iceland. But Iceland are a decent side, having knocked England out of Euro 2016 and progressed much further than Croatia in the competition. They are also on seven points from nine and will harbour strong hopes of qualifying for a second successive major tournament. Croatia are the better team and are deservedly favorites, but putting them at 1.40 and Iceland at 9.00 looks a little unfair on a very talented Iceland side from the bookmakers. That makes it worth looking at handicaps. On the Asian handicap Iceland +1.25 is 1.92, which looks a very interesting bet, given the two teams’ recent form. Iceland beat Turkey 2-0, while Croatia could only draw 1-1 with them. Iceland also secured a draw against Ukraine and beat Finland by the same margin as Croatia, so they are a very good team, and if Croatia win it could be by just a single goal, which would make the Asian handicap bet pay out.

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Morocco v Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast are reigning African champions and opened their World Cup qualification bid with a comfortable 3-1 win over Mali, where a new generation worked well in tandem with experienced heads like Gervinho in a new post-Toure brothers era. Morocco slumped to a 0-0 draw with Gabon and are already playing catch up in this group. They are blessed with attacking talent in the form of Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani, but overall they aren’t the greatest of sides and are now at 60th place in the FIFA world rankings, compared to 31st for Ivory Coast. Despite that the Ivoirians are outsiders here, thanks to Morocco having home advantage. You might be able to capitalise on that by looking at the Asian handicaps and taking Ivory Coast +0.25 at 1.88, where you get a half win if they draw and a full win if they win. Ivory Coast are a big, powerful side and have enough strength to outmuscle Morocco in midfield. If they can keep Mahrez quiet they will prevail.

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